A judge just banned Uber’s former head of self-driving cars from Lidar-related work

Travis Kalanick Anthony LevandowskiAssociated

A federal judge has ordered Anthony Levandowski, the former
Google engineer at the heart of a legal dispute with Uber, from
working on any Lidar-related work. 

Judge William Alsup’s order makes official a move Uber had
already made, in which the company demoted him from head of its
self-driving car project and banned him from working on

Here’s how the judge summarized the case so far: 

“By way of summary, this order finds plaintiff Waymo LLC has
shown compelling evidence that its former star engineer,
Anthony Levandowski, downloaded over 14,000 confidential files
from Waymo immediately before leaving his employment there. The
evidence shows that, both before and after his departure,
Levandowski and defendant Uber Technologies, Inc., planned for
Uber to acquire Levandowski’s new companies, defendants
Ottomotto LLC and Otto Trucking LLC, and to hire Levandowski as
the head of its self-driving car efforts. Moreover, defendants
and Levandowski anticipated and took steps to defend against
litigation with Waymo in connection with his move to Uber.
Significantly, the evidence indicates that, during the
acquisition, Uber likely knew or at least should have known
that Levandowski had taken and retained possession of Waymo’s
confidential files. Waymo has also sufficiently shown, for
purposes of the instant motion only, that the 14,000-plus
purloined files likely contain at least some trade secrets, and
that some provisional relief is warranted while this case
progresses toward trial. The scope of relief warranted at this
stage, however, is limited by several countervailing factors.”

As part of the order, Uber is ordered to hand over the
14,000 stolen documents to Waymo by May 31. 

“We are pleased with the court’s ruling that Uber can continue
building and utilizing all of its self-driving technology,
including our innovation around LiDAR,” an Uber spokesperson
said. “We look forward to moving toward trial and continuing to
demonstrate that our technology has been built independently from
the ground up.”

Waymo had initially made a larger bid to stop Uber’s self-driving
car research, claiming that the company was infringing on its
patents and trade secrets. However, the judge did not order Uber
to stop any of its research other than not allowing Levandowski
or any other Uber employee from using or consulting the allegedly
stolen files.

“Competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and
on the roads, not through unlawful actions. We welcome the order
to prohibit Uber’s use of stolen documents containing trade
secrets developed by Waymo through years of research, and to
formally bar Mr Levandowski from working on the technology. The
court has also granted Waymo expedited discovery and we will use
this to further protect our work and hold Uber fully responsible
for its misconduct.”